Saturday Oct 20

For the month of November, I was looking for something specific to feature in my new column: paper.

My mother and I have always had an interest in intricate designs and sculptures made from atypical materials, something surprising and different, so I wanted to focus on introducing my readers to something out of the ordinary. I had remembered a time where I came across some very unique women who specialized in sculpting birds out of exotic papers, but I couldn’t remember their company name in order to easily find them again. Needless to say, the search was on. 

I scoured the Internet for the best of the best in paper craft, hoping to rediscover the legendary duo, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. I happened upon The Makerie Studio, and after taking one look at a photograph of The Great Omar, a beautifully paper-crafted peacock, I knew I had come to the right place.

These talented women take on a number of incredibly creative endeavors, from magazine ads to window displays for London’s leading advertising agency, but among some of their most exceptional pieces are the birds. Ah, the birds. Each time I look at them I sigh in awe as if I am seeing them for the first time. These pieces are especially breathtaking and surprisingly elaborate, and the rare papers they use make them all the more stunning.

Their avian pieces aren’t just your regular 2D, drab designs. Many of their works are large, 3D objects that take much time and dedication from all of the clever and capable Makerie staff members. 

The Makerie Studio, run by two special ladies, Joyanne and Julie, has two locations: one based in London, and the other, in Milan. Together, they’ve done work for big names like Gucci, British Airlines, Vogue, and so many more, creating structural showpieces for their numerous famous clients, as well as supporting selected artists along the way. 

Atlas, their appropriately-named owl piece, is actually made out of bits of an atlas. It’s these little touches that make their work so special. Every piece of art that they do is crafted with a distinct passion for the art and precision. There is some extreme detail here, folks. I honestly can’t imagine how they do it, but they do some fine work. I wish that I was close enough to see some of it in person.



Joyanne and Julie of The Makerie Studio Interview, with Brittany Connolly


First, the obvious question: Why paper? You make such stunning, intricate pieces out of this one very basic albeit versatile material. What inspired you to begin doing paper-craft, and what made you continue doing it to this day?

Julie: Paper has always been fascinating to us - the range of prints, textures and finishes it comes in means it is ideal to make almost anything with. The biggest discovery has probably been how big and intricate you can go with something that seems so fragile; this makes it a really fun material to work with, and one we can't imagine abandoning anytime soon.

There's also something old-fashioned and warm about it….


How do you decide what your next piece will be? Is it spur-of-the-moment inspiration, heavy planning, commission work, or is there something else at the core of your decision making process?

Joy: We go through phases. We’re always having ideas about what else would be amazing to make, then we either get stuck in and finish (rare but beautiful), get stuck in and get distracted by a yummy commission (often), or can never get stuck in at all and just dream about having three spare days put together (usual). But! then it means we get to see the value of planning and being serious about the pieces as well as sometimes just seizing what you’ve got and going for it.


What’s the story behind The Makerie Studio? How did you two (Joyanne & Julie) meet each other, and when did you decide to merge together to form such a brilliant team?

Julie: We met at Uni and discovered a common interest for all things practical, as well as antiques, weird fairy tales and beautifully made objects. From there things came quite naturally - we each did our own thing for a little while and made tons of experiences is different sectors, and then came back to our original - and childhood - dreams and started The Makerie Studio full time. What seems to help us enormously is us each having different skills, and being able to recognize them in each other. Someone told me once that respect and admiration are the key for any relationship to work, and it definitely rings true with us.


Birds are exquisitely detailed in nature, so I can absolutely see the allure that would make you want to craft them out of paper. Have you crafted any other animals out of paper?

Joy: Hmmmm……. Actually, no? Which is completely unfair because there are lots of cool animals… obviously. Pipe dream animals include: snakes, beetles, fish (!), tortoises, big wintery animals and just stuff with scales I guess, repetitive patterning, lovely intricate shapes or bold silhouettes…


Some children grow up wanting to be ballerinas or movie stars. The oddest childhood aspiration I’ve heard of was about a little boy wanting to grow up to be a fire truck. Have you always wanted to be artists? What was your fundamental beginning as an artist? When did you know that art was your calling?

Julie: Wow, a fire truck sounds cool! We should've thought of that, dammit…

I know I wanted to be a circus acrobat until I was about 10, followed by a marine biologist; it was only when I realized making things and being an artist could be an actual job that I realized that's what I'd always wanted to do. I think the practicalities of things are important to both of us, but we've also loved art for as long as we can remember.


Do you dedicate all of your talents to this collaboration? Do either or both of you create artwork outside of this team?

Joy: Even if we sometimes create work ‘by ourselves’ the other is always the first person we want to show or get ideas/suggestions from. And we’re really into what the other makes, which has usually come out of discussion or whatever any way, so we haven’t really got a distinct separate alter ego. Probably the only things that we differ in, outside of The Makerie Studio is Julie’s happiness for Graphics and mine for teaching. 


What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Julie: First of all, I'd tell them to create their own path: being inspired by people is great and completely necessary, but it's only when you start making decisions different from others that you create original work. That sounds a little epic, but the thing is there are now plenty of people out there that can make a toothbrush out of paper; it's innovating and making new and different things that will set you apart and create an interesting career.


What is an average day at The Makerie Studio like? Is your work-atmosphere quiet? Hectic? And how many people are involved in the making of a specific project? 

Joy: Average day at The Makerie Studio is: Wake up, speak to each other about what we have to do, start, laugh a bit, keep working, talk more, make some decisions, work some more, wish there were more hours in the day, then go to sleep. It doesn’t really change whether we’re in the same country or not, on a massive project or a little project or a personal one, or not. Saying that, keeping in touch is the only thing about each day that is the same, it can be absolutely mad with a team of people working all hours, a quiet process-led job or a hardcore admin day but as long as we know what the other’s thinking it’s ok. Having Skype, cheap flights and nice boyfriends helps the whole thing along!


Which project, to date, has been the most challenging?

Julie: To be honest, they all are - we haven't yet done a project that didn't teach us something. Even the ones we think (or hope) will be easy, very often turn out not to be. :) We recently made some very, very challenging window installations for Gucci, so that's definitely top of the list - but that was great, mainly because when we finished them we felt like anything was possible… Which it is.


Paper can be an extremely fragile medium to work with. What things can go wrong when working with paper, and how often do little mishaps occur?

Joy: We’ve come to a stage where we’re pretty familiar with what we can expect to happen so mishaps are quite rare. Our main pet hate is dealing with pristine large sheets because keeping them so is an actual nightmare. Large areas are prone to warping and sometimes only develop over time; when they appear it looks a lot more like a big mishap than a small one and it can be quite disheartening. As with everything though, you learn to deal with the difficulties creatively and intelligently and finding solutions gets quicker and easier!


If you would like to explore more of their spectacular paper creations, please visit their website.  You won’t regret it.